Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Bobby Conn - Bobby Conn

Bobby Conn

Released 1997 on Truckstop
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 15/08/2003ce

1 Overture
2 Axis '67 pt. 1
3 No Kids, No Money
4 Never Get Ahead
5 Who's The Paul? #16
6 Who's The Paul? #33
7 Payback
8 The Sportsman
9 Axis '67 pt. 3

Limited-edition vinyl:
1 The Sportsman **
2 I Love You *
3 Who's The Paul? #1 **
4 Crimson & Clover *
5 No Kids, No Money
6 Never Get Ahead
* not on CD **different from CD version

Remember how the world was going to end because of "Y2K"? Looking back it seems sorta cute. I mean we didn't REALLY think armageddon was around the corner, did we? Well in the late 1990's Bobby Conn was gigging around Chicago proclaiming the end was nigh, Babylon was about to fall, and by the way he thinks he just might be the Antichrist. His tunes are mostly political-religious nightmares starring himself; his debut album is a concept album about "Bobby Conn and the Apocalypse" and I don't believe there's ever been anything else quite like it.

The CD begins with the sound of a needle on a scratchy record, some bizarre gargling sounds and wailing babies leading into an "Overture" consisting of various musical themes from the album, much like the overture of The Who's "Tommy" as played by a low-fi psychedelic funk orchestra including a string section (a "poor man's Isaac Hayes" kinda sound.) Guest vocalist Teria Garteris operatically warbles random cyrpto-significant lyrics from other songs, like "it ain't superstition, it's Christianity!" and "America look what you've done!" Bobby doesn't appear until the end of the 7 minute track when he introduces himself in a cheesy MC voice as "Chicago's favorite CHRISTIAN entertainer!"

"Axis '67 part 1" begins with gentle acoustic guitar and porpoise-like sounds as "Bobby Conn" makes his grand appearance singing: "I stand before you all dressed in white / no son of God, man -- I'm the antichrist! / You better hope I die before the Armageddon / Cuz I was born in the Axis '67 / the Summer of Love, man!" He compares himself to Jesus as lovely strings swoop down and the drums quietly build -- "And as this century turns yer all gonna BURN!" -- then a wall of thundering metal guitars obliterate the wimpy flower pop as he intones "Kill me now or pay me later!" It breaks down to cello & feedback then builds back up as he repeats "Prepare ye the way of the Lord!" starting in a silly falsetto and working up to a full throated roar. Finally more psychedelic strings & noise transition into a huckster rap about his "Continuous Cash-Flow System" which concludes: "And I don't need no children, no! I ain't no fuckin' rich man! You ain't gonna get me travelin' through the eye of the needle!" segueing into . . .

The starving artist anthem "No Kids, No Money" -- Bobby spasmodically speed raps about money (and Jesus) over filthy funk noise by Monitor Radio's rhythm section with jazz terrorist Weasel Walter on guitar. When he's done singing the song careens throughy a wonderful cascade of all kindsa horrible noise -- sounds like he's playing the guitar with a belt sander and the drummer is using sheets of metal for cymbals! There's also a "Supernaut/Santana" timbali breakdown, an army of wailing free jazz saxophones, incredibly obnoxious DJ scratching, Bobby yelling his lungs out. Finally it segues into some 70's porn soundtrack music and the huckster is at it again: "Hey, what's that on the horizon? It's your NEW LIFESTYLE! . . . What's it like? It's exciting! . . . Hey, sex! . . . SEX!!!!!!" and the music swirls out of control through the echo chamber as Bobby giggles and goes "oh wowwww!" like he's tripping his brains out while getting the most amazing blow job ever.

Which appropriately leads into Bobby's 2nd single "Never Get Ahead" which sounds sorta like the Jackson 5's "ABC" (if it was recorded in 1967 with a string quartet.) One of his most dynamic vocal performances (and he is "Mr. Dynamic") Bobby begins in his highest falsetto: "Monday morning 9am, boy you're lookin cute / out the door like a li'l man in your business suit / go downtown and stand in line, get down on your knees / so you suck off that old man to pay for your degrees." Then he sings the chorus with deadpan seriousness: "You're never gonna get ahead by giving head to The Man." Nyuk nyuk!

Next is "Who's The Paul? #16", a 13 minute long excercise in "16 style", a turntablist technique involving playing 33 rpm records at 16rpm so they sound low and slow and creepy. Hard to say what Bobby does on this tune which is mostly the work of pal DJ LaDeuce, and almost entirely made up of bits from Paul McCartney tunes! Keyboard riffs, drum licks and random sounds (all from Macca albums and quite recognizable as such) float along in a opiate haze at half speed with repeated phrases like "can you take me back where I been to?" (from the "White Album") and "When I go away . . ." (from "My Love") -- such crypto-profundity!

Next it segues into "Who's The Paul? #33" which is simply Bobby's first 45rpm single "Who's The Paul?" . . . but played at 33rpm! You gotta admit he has brass ones for putting 19 minutes of songs deliberately played at the wrong speed in the middle of his debut CD! I do prefer the normal speed "#1" version (which is on the vinyl LP) cuz it's a great song, sorta like KISS only trippy. (But on the other hand when Bobby pants the title over and over his gasping sounds really cool at half speed.) One of his most intriguing tunes, it's all about "the guy who broke up the band" (McCartney again) and asks the profund question, "Who's the Paul in YOUR life?"

"Payback" is a slow burn sleaze-funk with some nice violin sawing and sandpaper guitar feedback, in my opinion the weakest track on the album.

For "The Sportsman" Bobby is "rollin out the back door with your hash and a little smack / I never touch the cocaine cuz I know that shit is wack / and excuse me for my language that I wasn't born to use / but don't take me for a sucka CUZ I PAID MY FUCKIN' DUES AND I'M BOBBY CONN!!!!" The megalomaniac chorus consists of Bobby shrieking his name over and over again: "I'M BOBBY CONN, MAAAAN!!!" (And if you are lucky enough to find that vinyl version it has a different faster & furiouser version with the Monitor Radio/Weasel Walter/avante sax lineup -- it is KILLER.)

The CD ends with "Axis '67 part 3", a 9 minute psychodramatic jam driven by a jazzy beat and a trippy cello arpeggio. Bobby repeats various phrases about the life of Jesus (or is it Bobby Conn?), from "What a beautiful baby!" to "Caesar! Another Nail!" (the best reference to Caesar since Sir Lord Baltimore!) Finally he lays it on the line: "I AM THE ANTICHRIST -- DON'T YOU BELIEVE ME?!!"

Of course it was all a put-on (but great fun nonetheless.) He kept the shtick up for his second album, the more widely-known "Rise Up!" but even before Y2K rolled around he was already saying in interviews "it turns out I might not be the antichrist after all." But so what, he pulls it off anyway with his mercurial shape-shifting "performance art" approach. Bowie's various "characters" seem the most obvious reference, only Bobby is a lot more stylistically diverse, sleazier, and has a sense of humour. His music is genius or close to it, incorporating everything from Tropicalia to Schmaltzmetal. I for one am most blown away by the NOIZY experimentalism on his first album. (His more recent stuff is also good but tends towards "chamber pop" since he hooked up with crit-fave producer Jim O'Rourke.)

And I didn't even get to the 9 minute hellride through "Crimson & Clover" on the vinyl version!

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